The Isle

On October 1, 1988 two people entered Presque Isle Park and only one came out alive. The question of who killed Paul Girard on a sacred Native American chief’s grave may soon be answered. The key to solve the 33-year-old cold case may be buried in Lake Superior or it might be with scientists in Michigan.

The Episode

Hi park enthusiasts.

I’m your host Delia D’Ambra…

The case I’m going to share with you today comes all the way from Presque Isle Park in the town of Marquette, Michigan.

This park is in the far North part of the state that shares its border with Wisconsin.

Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and almost entirely surrounds Presque Isle Park.

*Boat horn*

The only way in and out by land is to pass what’s known as Upper Harbor. It’s a marina near the entrance of the park where for hundreds of years freighters and huge ships carrying iron ore have docked.

If you walk about 200 yards into the park from Upper Harbor, the landscape of Presque Isle climbs steadily upward but then levels out.

*Native American drums*

The first clearing you come to is the site of a grave marker for a well-known Michigan Native American Chief…Chief Charlie Kabawgam.

And just like the indigenous chief’s life is memorialized there. So too is the soul of 34-year-old Paul Girard who was stabbed to death while on a walk in the park, and left at the foot of the chief’s grave.

This is Park Predators..

At 10:00am on Friday, September 30th, 1988, the Grundstroms, a husband and wife from Marquette, Michigan, were on their usual morning walk in Presque Isle Park when they stumbled upon the body of a man lying in a pool of blood.

They found the gruesome scene literally only a few minutes after getting out of their car and starting their walk.

The couple was horrified by what they saw but we’re talking 1988 here, so, it’s not like they could just pick up their cell phones and dial 911. Instead, they noted the location of where the body was, sprawled out in front of a grave memorial for Native American Chief Charlie Kabawgam, and beelined for help.

Within minutes, they ran into a man dressed in a Marquette City Parks employee uniform and told him what they’d found.

The park employee was working that morning a few hundred yards away from the bloodied body, picking up leaves and trash or doing some type of maintenance work when the Grundstroms ran up to him.

The panicked couple asked him to call 911 and he quickly went over to a nearby office phone and dialed police.

Detectives from Marquette City Police were dispatched to the scene right away and arrived within a few minutes.

Based on identification found on the body, detectives discovered the victim was 34-year-old Marquette native Paul Girard. It was clear from just looking at his body that Paul had been stabbed all over, possibly as many as two dozen times.

Right away, detectives believed that the crime looked like it was overkill. It seemed extremely rage-driven or anger-driven.

The evidence at the crime scene, most notably the position of Paul’s body, strongly indicated that his attack occurred right where he fell. So, it wasn’t like he was killed elsewhere and dumped there kind of thing or that he’d been stabbed somewhere else and then run to the spot and died.

I spoke with the Marquette City Police detective in charge of Paul’s case today, a man by the name of Doug Heslip, and he provided me with a lot of good details to help us understand what really happened back in 1988.

According to Doug, Paul was fully clothed when he was murdered and there were no signs of mutilation on his body. Just a lot of stab wounds to his chest, abdomen, face and neck.

Paul had what detectives believed were clear defensive wounds on his fingers and arms. Police surmised that those wounds came from Paul trying to fight hard against whoever killed him. He had several deep gashes in his fingers and some nick marks where it seemed he’d tried to actually grab the knife from his assailant.

One thing I find really interesting that detective Heslip pointed out is that at the time of his death Paul was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed about 185-190 pounds. That’s a fairly large guy to try and take down on your own. Police believed that whoever killed him was definitely in shape and was most likely a match for Paul’s size and weight. With a knife though, the killer clearly had the physical advantage.

According to the police department, Paul’s death in 1988 was the first murder at Presque Isle Park in the city’s modern history. In the 33 years since there have been some suicides reported and accidental deaths in the park, but no other homicides. Paul is the only one.

It kind of makes sense too when you read a little bit about this place. Marquette is a city that has grown bigger and bigger over the years, but back in 1988 there were only between 20 to 25,000 full-time residents that lived there. So, it definitely was a small town when you compare it to say Green Bay, Wisconsin which is like 3 hours away. Violent crimes in Marquette were pretty much non-existent in the 80’s.

The time of year that Paul’s murder happened, which was the end of September, is when the population in the city is sort of peaking. The fall is in full swing that time of year and the park is a beautiful place to visit. People from all over Michigan and surrounding states come to enjoy walking, biking or boating before the harsh winter sets in and everything gets covered in layers of snow and ice.

Authorities factored that information into their investigation. They wondered if someone from out of town who’d been visiting the area could have somehow met Paul and then for whatever reason killed him. The fact that Paul’s wallet and ID were with him though indicated to police that he wasn’t mugged or robbed. If he met up with someone, he could have known them.

Marquette Police’s strongest theory at the time was that someone who had a problem with Paul lured him to the park and killed him. As they started looking closer into his life, right away they realized something that made him very different from the rest of the men in Marquette.

He was an openly gay man. Paul’s brother, sister and friends in town described him as a social butterfly who was very open about his sexuality and everyone who lived in town knew he was gay. For Paul, he didn’t try to hide who he was.

He’d grown up in Marquette and graduated from Gwinn High School. I couldn’t find anything on if Paul was into any sports or clubs in high school, and the police now don’t even know that information, but from what they gathered, Paul was very feminine and from what his family said, he always had been.

Because of this, at the place and time he grew up in the 50s and 60s, he was never really accepted by his community. But that didn’t make him want to leave his hometown. He decided after graduating high school to forgo attending college and instead stayed local.

Throughout his 20’s and into his 30’s he enjoyed living where he was from and stayed in touch with his parents and family members in the area.

At the time of his murder he worked in Marquette as an associate and part-time manager for a short-term equipment rental store in town. He liked his job and when he wasn’t working he spent a lot of his time socializing at local bars and restaurants. Some of those establishments were welcoming to gay men and women…but a lot of them were not.

Because he was so open about his sexuality, Paul on a regular basis, had run-ins with other men that didn’t like the fact that he was gay.

Marquette city police knew from prior police reports with their department that Paul had filed complaints about being assaulted. But, according to his friends there had also been some assaults and fights that Paul never reported to police because he felt there was nothing officers could really do to make the harassment stop.

So, either out of fear or out of realizing that some people in town were never going to accept him, Paul decided he was just going to have to deal with being a target of homophobic people.

With all of this background knowledge on their victim in mind, Marquette City Police realized they may have been dealing with some sort of hate crime or lover’s quarrel gone bad…and they were probably going to need some help investigating…particularly when it came to forensics.

Local detectives in 1988 called in Michigan State police crime lab techs to assist. Those techs arrived at the park very quickly on the morning of September 30th and began collecting evidence.

The one obvious thing missing was the murder weapon.

Based on the size and depth of his wounds investigators believed the weapon that killed Paul was most likely a knife…maybe the size of one you’d carry on your hip. Something the size of a normal hunting knife, but not like a machete or large knife you’d use to dress a deer or anything.

According to Doug Heslip, the state police did an awesome job collecting and processing stuff at the scene in 88’.

*Camera flashing*

They picked up every scrap of litter, debris, really anything that was around Paul’s body or in that general section of the park. They collected bottle caps, wrappers, branches, leaves, you name it.

At the time, the state police techs knew about DNA but they didn’t know exactly how it worked.

So, just as a precaution they collected evidence meticulously because they hoped DNA would one day be more advanced and maybe all the litter in the evidence bags would provide Marquette police with more clues as to who the killer was.

Following the scraps of debris from the crime scene further into the park…the techs actually led investigators to a gold mine of clues.

What the police were desperately wanting to find was waiting in the parking lot of Upper Harbor…

Shortly after Paul Girard’s body was found inside Presque Isle Park, police from Marquette located his car.

It was parked in a spot in the marina by the entrance to the park about 200 yards away from his body.

*Marina sounds*

It was facing inward looking out over the water and boats.

In 1988, Upper Harbor was a well-known location for gay men to meet up. To this day, it’s still considered that to some extent.

According to Bob Damron’s 1988 edition of his book ‘’The Damrom Address Book’ Presque Isle Park is listed as an address for gay men to meet up in the United States.

Damron’s book pinpoints specific locations across the country that men can meet potential partners.

Presque Isle Park in Marquette is listed in that book as a place to go if you’re in Michigan and want to hook up with someone.

Doug Heslip told me that in the 1988 edition of the book the letters A-Y-O-R are written in parentheses next to Presque Isle Park. A-Y-O-R stands for ‘at your own risk’.

So, to police, this meant that if Paul had gone there to meet another man for a hookup, it could have been dangerous.

Paul’s car itself being parked at the marina told the detectives in 88’ that someone had driven it there and most likely it was Paul.

To try and confirm that, they began to piece together a timeline of his last movements the night of September 29th. According to witnesses, Paul was seen in several restaurants and hangout spots in town and was driving his car at all of those locations.

The last known sighting of him was at a local gas station not far from Presque Isle Park.

*Store bell dinging*

The clerk working in the store that night told police that between 2:30am-3:00am Paul came into the store alone.

The clerk said nothing seemed out of the ordinary with Paul. He wasn’t beat up or upset or fearful or anything or like he had run there on foot to get away from someone. Everything just seemed normal.

The clerk said he wasn’t able to see though if Paul came to the store in his car. The store had no surveillance video.

So at the time, detectives assumed Paul likely drove himself to the park to meet someone or in between being seen at the gas station and being in the park he had picked up someone in his car and they both went into the park together.

When investigators looked through Paul’s car they didn’t find anything in disarray. He was known to be a tidy person and the inside of the car reflected that.

The one noticeable thing police found were traces of blood actually on the vehicle. When they tested the blood, it came back as Paul’s. This led investigators to suspect that the killer went to Paul’s car after the murder and transferred some of Paul’s blood onto the car.

You see, according to the medical examiner, Paul was stabbed and died right where he was found in the park. The extent of his gruesome injuries and other evidence on his body meant that he literally could not have moved after being stabbed multiple times. So, the only way his blood had gotten on his car was if whoever killed him went there and accidentally smeared it there.

Police processed the area around Paul’s car for more clues and found trails of blood leading into other areas of the park in opposite direction of where Paul was found.

Now, this reinforced their theory that the killer had been on foot shortly after the murder, likely walking away from Paul’s dead body…to his car…then wandered in another direction headed to find a way to escape.

The last place blood was found in the park was in an area where other cars would usually be parked.

Investigators believed this indicated that the perpetrator got into a vehicle and drove away or had a car waiting there.

According to Doug, there are two theories police have had over the years as to what really happened to Paul…the big difference between the two theories is Paul’s time of death.

The theory police had in 1988 was that Paul was killed sometime between 3:00am and 4:00am.

That was based on two things. One, the last known sighting of him at the gas station near the park and two, the temperature of his body when it was found.

In 1988, when the coroner examined Paul’s body they noted that his body temperature was very cold and the police assumed that meant Paul had been dead for several hours when he was found at 10:14am by the Grundstroms.

There are no definitive reports that I could find that indicate exactly what Paul’s body temperature was and Doug didn’t share that information with me, but basically in1988 Paul’s temperature reading was much lower than 98.6 degrees. Police automatically jumped to the conclusion that Paul’s death had to have occurred sometime in the early morning hours, not long after he left the local convenience store.

But, Doug told me in his interview that you have to remember, this murder happened in September in Northern Michigan right on Lake Superior. According to the Marquette Coast Guard USA Weather Station data the low temperature for September 30th, 1988 was 54 degrees. So, it was on the chillier side that morning.

Doug believes it’s possible the low temperatures and moderate winds coming off of Lake Superior on the morning of September 30th could have cooled Paul’s body faster. Meaning, it is possible he could have died later in the morning and not at 3:00am or 4:00am.

Doug says that pinpointing Paul’s time of death solely on his body temperature is too inconclusive. So, he took another approach when he got the cold case in 2015.

After he reviewed all of the police reports and re-interviewed dozens of witnesses in the case…Doug realized it was more likely that Paul was killed between 8:00am and 8:30am on September 30th.

Here’s why he thinks that..

According to the case file, there are a couple of people, other than the Grundstroms, that were walking in Presque Isle Park the morning Paul was found.

An eyewitness who was interviewed in 1988 told police that he was actually walking in the exact area Paul was found at 8:00am and he didn’t see ANY DEAD BODY in front of the Native American chief’s grave memorial. He said if he had, he would have definitely noticed it and called the police.

Also something this witness noticed that seemed out of the ordinary was that a few minutes after passing the indigenous chief’s grave marker, he heard a car going really fast around the island and thought to himself “Man, that car is really going.”

He told police that he tried to look through the woods to see the car, but couldn’t. At that point in time he was walking in a section of the park known as Black Rocks, which is a good distance away from the crime scene and Upper Harbor, but close to where other visitors usually park their cars.

Doug found another witness interview from 1988 that was from a cyclist riding her bike in the park around 8:30am. She stated she was riding by where Paul was found and looked over and saw a man’s body on the ground in what appeared to be a pool of blood, but…get this…she didn’t think it was REAL.

She told the police that she kept riding her bike because she thought the body was actually a mannequin and was some sort of weird prank that the local college students were pulling.

Now, to fill you in here on some extra detail that will make this woman’s story sort of make sense… Paul was found on a Friday morning… that weekend was homecoming weekend for students attending Northern Michigan University.

So, this eyewitness’s story of why she thought Paul’s body was a prank kind of makes a little more sense when you put it into context with it being homecoming. BUT STILL…if I ever see what looks like a dead body, I’m definitely calling for help. Most people wouldn’t just peddle off!

Anyway… despite the inconsistencies of when exactly Paul was murdered, detectives in 1988 did do all the usual processes of elimination to find suspects.

They searched Paul’s home which was about eight to ten miles away from the park, but found nothing. There was no evidence to suggest that he had a partner or that there had been any disruption at his home.

Investigators then turned their attention to several local men who Paul had filed reports about in the past for beating him up. The police investigated, polygraphed and interrogated all of these men but they were cleared and none of them were named as suspects.

Detectives also interviewed all of Paul’s co-workers and they were also cleared.

One scenario police had to look at considering the nature of the murder and the location was that perhaps Paul was involved in drugs and had gone to the park to buy or sell drugs and been attacked in a deal gone bad. But this theory faded fast after police talked with Paul’s friends.

From those interviews, it was clear that Paul was NOT known to use drugs or be involved in the drug scene. He also had no drugs in his system when the medical examiner performed a toxicology test after his murder. So, a possible scenario that suggested he went into the park to buy or sell drugs just wasn’t looking likely at all.

Paul’s friends doubled down when they spoke with police and emphasized that he was not seeing anyone specifically, a boyfriend, but they did admit that even if he was, they wouldn’t know for sure. They said that in the past Paul had always been very, very private about who his committed partners were when he was in a relationship. Even if it wasn’t a fling, like an actual steady thing, he would still kept it on the down-low.

Again, we’re talking about the late 1980’s here. HIV and the aids virus wasn’t something that many people knew a lot about or discussed openly with their doctors. Now there is no indication from police that Paul himself had HIV but just the fact that Paul was sexually active in Marquette and it was a frequent place for other men to meet up and hook up, you can see where it’s possible Paul may have had a fear about gossip spreading about who was with who… and for how long…etc.

Paul wanting to be private about who he’d been sexually active with or why he would break off a relationship makes sense to me.

Despite all of these challenges, one shining light early on in the investigation was that the FBI did a psychological profile of who the offender could be. That helped law enforcement narrow their scope of the type of person to be on the lookout for.

The FBI profile indicated that whoever killed Paul was likely a male, a loner was disorganized and had the ability to be out late at night with no accountability. Basically, the killer would have had no one keeping tabs on him that night.

He was likely in his late teens to mid 20’s and had what profilers say is low impulse control, meaning he would act out of impulse or have sudden behaviors that were emotionally-driven and uncontrolled.

The FBI said that the killer likely cherished the knife used to murder Paul and took it with him after the stabbing. It is highly unlikely that he dumped it somewhere. The knife is special to him and after all of these years, it’s extremely likely that he still has it and has taken good care of it.

In 1988, Marquette police and the Michigan State Police sent divers into Lake Superior and the Upper Harbor marina to look for the knife or any additional evidence but they found nothing.

According to Doug, that’s because Lake Superior is full of silt. Anything that hits the silt causes it to billow up into clouds under the water and that makes it extremely difficult to find anything. But also if the FBI’s profile is right, it might not be down there at all and it could have still been with the person who murdered paul.

As the case dragged on into 1989, other leads about possible suspects came into police. Most were from women who said they’d been with men who might be gay…

And those men had admitted to killing Paul…

According to current Marquette PD detective Doug Heslip, in the months after Paul’s murder there were a lot of people that claimed they had killed Paul. Mostly they were men from the Nothern Michigan area.

When detectives would follow up with the stories the guys making these disturbing claims retracted their statements and said they were just joking.

Even after his murder, it seemed like men in Marquette were still poking fun at Paul and not taking his murder seriously. They disrespected him and had little compassion or remorse that they were sending police on wild goose chases with false leads.

After seven months of working the case, the investigation in 1988 was starting to get cold, but by April 1989 Marquette police began pursuing one strong new lead.

A woman called in with another tip reporting a guy who was a local could have been involved. Officers looked at this guy pretty hard but he eventually got a lawyer. Police tried to build a case around him for a long time but they never had enough to bring charges.

According to Doug Heslip, this man is still a suspect to this day.

Doug wouldn’t tell me the man’s name, but he has reviewed this guy’s interview transcript from back in 1988 and believes that he could have been in the park on September 30th.

In 1988 the man vehemently claimed that he had nothing to do with the murder, he didn’t know where Upper Harbor was and he didn’t know Paul Girard at all.

But when Doug re-read his interview transcript years later and compared it to other interviews in the case, Doug found that the man had lied…multiple times.

Doug says this suspect would have been in his early to mid 30’s at the time of the murder.

After talking with people in Marquette Doug has uncovered that this guy did know Paul and according to the suspect’s friends. The guy was confused about his own sexual orientation and would often fluctuate between knowing he was gay, then hating gay people.

When Doug picked up Paul’s case in 2015 he realized that the state police crime scene techs back in 1988 had preserved the traces of the blood found on Paul’s vehicle.

Now, like I said before a lot of the blood came back initially as belonging to Paul but…Doug believes it’s possible the suspect’s DNA could be mixed in with some of those samples.

So, in 2020 he decided to send the blood off to a lab out of state as well as to the Michigan State Police crime lab. It’s currently being tested further with the hopes of having a DNA profile extracted from it.

Doug expects results to come in from that this summer (Summer 2021).

In our interview, Doug told me straight up that he has two prime suspects in this case.

One is the local guy from Marquette who lawyered up in 89’ and the other is a man who was not a local but did visit Presque Isle Park in September 1988. Dough says he has evidence to show that this guy left Marquette immediately after the murder.

This second suspect, according to Doug, is alive and well and currently living out of state. Doug has been able to execute search warrants to get these two men’s DNA samples.

He told me he’s also served a search warrant for a THIRD person’s DNA, but wouldn’t go into details about that.

Doug says during the five years he’s been actively working the case, he’s traveled all over the country tracking down men who could be suspects and has asked them for DNA samples.

All of them have said yes and to-date they’ve all been cleared…except the two…possibly three men he’s zeroed in on.

What Doug used to narrow down his suspect pool was the 1988 FBI psychological profile in the case.

He’s compared it to the small group of men he believes could be responsible for committing the crime and says the profile is almost an exact match to all of them.

While he waits for DNA results, Doug keeps Paul’s surviving family members, mostly his sister up to date on what’s going on with the investigation.

In the 33 years since Paul’s murder, no reward has ever been offered in the case.

According to Doug, neither the Marquette community nor Paul’s siblings have ever organized a vigil or anything to remember him.

Doug says Paul’s family, who still lives in Marquette, is supportive of the revived cold case investigation he’s heading up and they do want whoever killed their brother arrested…but over the years they’ve expressed that they have come to terms with what happened to Paul.

They believe in their hears that he was murdered by a someone who didn’t like the fact that he was gay… and as painful as its been not having closure, they’ve tried to move on.

Doug Heslip, won’t have closure though. Not until the only known predator to Presque Isle Park is prosecuted.

If you have any information in this case, please call Marquette Police Detective Doug Heslip at 906-225- 8920 or email him at

Park Predators is an Audiochuck Original Podcast.

Research and writing by Delia D’Ambra with writing assistance from executive producer Ashley Flowers. Sound design by David Flowers.

You can find all of the source material for this episode on our website,

So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve? *howl